WASHINGTON — Prince George’s County Council members should park their county-owned vehicles for good, and forego a $10,000 annual stipend. That’s the recommendation of a three-member panel that issued its final report on Tuesday.
The Vehicle Use Review Board was formed after Councilmember Mel Franklin totaled a government-issued vehicle in a drunk-driving crash that left two people injured in November.
It was the second time that Franklin had been involved in a collision involving a county-owned vehicle.
County Council Chair Derrick Davis called for the formation of the review board after a series of reports in The Washington Post focused on the program that let council members take home cars or SUVs or accept a $10,000 stipend on top of their salaries.
The review board recommended that the council members should be reimbursed for the use of their own vehicles on county business, and also recommended increasing the current mileage allowance from 36 cents to 53.5 cents, which is the current rate set by the IRS.
The next step in the process will include sending the recommendations to a commission that examines the council members’ salaries and compensation. Any changes to the take-home car policy would affect members who serve following the 2018 elections.
Prince Georges County Council members earn $117,000 a year — less than neighboring Montgomery County Council members. The chair and vice chair of the Prince George’s County Council earn an additional $6,000 and $3,000 respectively on top of their base pay.
Davis, the Council chair, said he has opted to take the $10,000 per year stipend.
“When I was elected, I had a take-home car for about a month and a half, and then I changed from that policy.” Davis said. “I actually preferred using my own vehicle.”
But the decision whether council members should stop taking the stipend, which residents have criticized, is personal, he said.
“That’s a choice that council members would have to make.”
Davis said he didn’t know whether the 53-cent mileage reimbursement would be a fair exchange for the stipend given how many miles council members put on their vehicles for county business — trips to Ocean City for meetings or simply traversing what he called “the vastness of Prince George’s County.”
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